May Sponsors

Without sponsors, I couldn’t justify the time I spend on these pages.  While it’s a hobby, it’s also how I pay for the things I do with my children – a blessing of modern life, right?  I’d like to tell you a little more about the companies that sponsor us!

Baby Natural

Baby Natural is your go to place for organic and natural baby products. They are also the UK’s sole distributor of gNappies. In fact many of the items you’ve seen reviewed here, you’ll also find at Baby Natural.

Little Bliss

Oh, this is nepotism at its best – I’m advertising me! Little Bliss is my business. Baby Massage and Rhythm Kids. I love watching the bond between parents and babies grow as they become more confident with their kiddies. It’s wonderful.

Urbanvox

Yuri has been a wonderful photographer for us and did these pregnancy and newborn shots for us. He works wherever the work is (within limits!) so check out his site.

Placenta Encapsulation

I have a few posts coming up on placentas and their function and benefits. I was really lucky to have Krishna from the Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network turn Aviya’s placenta into capsules for us. If you’re in the Guildford area, she’s your woman!

Please visit and support our sponsors! We wouldn’t recommend them if we didn’t think they were great!

(If you’d like to sponsor us, get in touch or purchase your button ad directly!)

4 Lasting Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

It’s Earth Day today, and while many people might not even realise it, millions of others around the world will be participating in Earth Day activities. In past years we’ve done things like black outs, where everyone is encouraged to turn off their lights for an hour in the evening, or meet at a local park to pick up litter.  While those are all fantastic ideas, and well worth doing, when I think of my children and how I can involve them in Earth Day, I realise that to them, a way of life will be so much more meaningful than simply doing special things on one day.

Equate Earth Day to Valentine’s Day. It’s all fine and well spoiling your partner on 14 February, but the rest of the year treating him like he doesn’t matter, you don’t care about him and he is irrelevant to your way of life. There’s little real or lasting about a relationship that only has effort put into it on one day a year.  Earth Day is the same. While 1,000,000 people doing something special on one day of the year is not to be sniffed at, 10,000 people doing something special every day is already almost four times as effective.

So how can I teach my children to treat every day as Earth Day?Read more: 4 Lasting Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

Making Money At Home (Part 2)

In part one of my guide to Money Saving at Home, I ran through a bunch of simple changes that together could add up to hundreds of pounds saved every month without any significant sacrifices or much real impact on your quality of life.

It’s all about reducing unnecessary spending, making sure you’re getting the best possible value for things you are spending money on, and eliminating waste.

However, clutter around the home represents another form of waste: wasted space. Most of us are guilty of hoarding to some degree, a point that has come home to us in particular recently with the arrival of a new face in the household a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday I wrote about saving money in your home. Today I want to look at a different approach to the same thing – making money with what you have at home. You can’t sell off everything – well, unless you are trying to – but many of us have a lot of clutter, and lots of stuff we really don’t need anymore.  That can all come in handy when you need a little cash flow boost.

  • About The PlayPennies AuthorsLook at your hobbies and see what you could turn to profit: sell paintings at a local coffee shop, grow something in your garden and join a co-op to swap food, use stamping to make cards, or beads to make necklaces – whatever you enjoy doing, look at it and see if you can turn it into a little bit of profit.
  • Getting rid of unused or unwanted clutter not only frees up valuable space, which is valuable enough on its own, but can also put some very real cash in your pocket, which could make all the difference in the world if you’re going through some tough times financially.Decluttering isn’t difficult or complicated, either: simply look around your house and see what you don’t need and don’t use. See what you can do without and what you wont even miss. As people we’re surprisingly good at blocking out problems we can’t solve, to look past, around or even through piles of clutter we don’t know what to do with. The trick is to take off these filtered specs, see things for what they are and be disciplined enough to say goodbye to all those things you’ve always said you’ll use “one day”, but never have.

    Look through toys, baby clothes and equipment and see what you can sell on ebay, at your local NCT Nearly New Sale, or Mama Markets. Use social media to find a local selling group (we have one on Facebook for our local area). If there isn’t one, start one.

    Look at your DVD and music collection, and use a website such as MusicMagpie to declutter and make some money too. I managed to sell my old dvds with musicmagpie which meant the pile on top of the DVD player is now in our DVD folders, and the unwatched films have a new life elsewhere.

It may not solve all your problems, but clearing out space gives you room to breathe and think and getting a cheques in the post won’t hurt either – even if you use that money as a ‘bonus’ to do something nice for yourself and your family, giving you the energy and motivation to continue being thrifty in other areas.

And I think that’s an important point – compare money saving to dieting. If you go ‘cold turkey’ you might find yourself binging a few days later, undoing all the good you’ve done to that point. Rather focus on specific areas, and go from there making money saving a way of life, rather than a crash diet.

Those are some of my ‘top’ tips for saving money and if you can, making money, and getting through the difficult months.

Now please, share some of yours with me?

Money Saving At Home (Part 1)

I have mentioned before that money is a little tight around these parts at the moment, since my hubby hasn’t been working full time for a few months now. I realise that looking around me, many people are facing the same or similar circumstances, and there’s a repossessions warehouse near where we live that’s recently acquired more land to build extra units – which can’t bode well for the area, or the economy… or in fact the families affected.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ways of tightening those imaginary belt straps, and realise that I’ve written a lot for others on money saving, but never for myself. So here are some of the money saving ideas we’ve implemented in our home. Part one will focus on ways of reducing your monthly outgoings, while I’ll look at some ways of generating cash from things already in your home in a follow-up post.

I would love to hear some of your own ideas, too – they may help me, or someone else, feel a bit less financial pressure in these tough times.

Admin DayDepending on just how dire your financial circumstances actually are, you’ve probably already covered the first wave of belt-tightening exercises worth thinking about: you’ve given up your morning cup of coffee from whichever local vendor you support, saving you up to £60 a month on coffee. Then there’s the muffin you’re no longer having, which is saving you another £40 a month.
You’re not slipping a bottle or two of wine into your weekly shop just for the sake of it, and you’ve cut down on evenings out, or imposed a firm spending limit. You’ve probably also reduced how often you go out for dinner, while take-away menus are now recycling fodder and you do your grocery shop with a shopping list and calculator in hand.

So now we’re looking at more hardcore savings, right?

  • The first thing to do is take out your bank statements for the last three months, and go through them. Look for anything you don’t recognise. I did that and found a £9.99 a month subscription for an online movie website I hadn’t used in over a year, but was still paying for.
  • I also found a payment for home insurance for a house we haven’t lived in for more than a year (despite my having cancelled it). This kind of thing may be refundable, in some circumstances, so look into that. Even if not, it reduces your outgoings going forward, in this case to the tune of £15 a month.
  • Make sure to do it for all accounts too, not just your main bank account. For example, I found a credit card we hadn’t used in some months had racked up a bit of money owing again, thanks to payment protection insurance I wasn’t even aware I’d taken out. I cancelled that, and in fact the credit card itself, as it had a way too high an interest rate for my liking.

A morning’s effort saved us almost £30 a month.

  • Next, look at your outgoings, such as gas, electricity, water and so on. You can use a website like uSwitch to compare energy prices , home communications, mobile phone packages and insurance prices. According to uSwitch, you could save over £1,000 a year – which is obviously the best case scenario, but still, any saving is good news.
  • Groceries represent a huge outgoing for most families, and I’ve been chatting to people recently to find out what they spend on food. The definition of ‘necessities’ varies from family to family, and ‘essentials’ are as changeable as the people who use them, so it’s difficult to set down a one-size-fits-all spending target.For ourselves, if we can keep our shopping to between £60 and £80 a week, I’m happy. Considering that includes things like washing tablets/powder, cleaners and toiletries, it’s a bit of a tough ask at times! That’s for a family of 2 adults and 1 eating child. I’ve had an ask around on Twitter, and with a few exceptions, families like ours do seem to spend the same as us. One family had their bill reduced to £45-odd a week, and another admitted to around £90 a week.

We have found two things that have made a huge difference to our shopping outlay (interestingly, the £45 family do the same things with regard to food!):

  • First – getting an organic food box delivered once a week, with all our vegetables for the week. On a rare occasion we might need to top up with some onions, potatoes or similar staples from the supermarket, and because we’re selective fruit eaters, we buy fruit as and when we need it, but for the most part, our weekly food shop now doesn’t include any vegetables.Our organic food delivery is full of locally produced, seasonal vegetables, and we’re often exposed to things we wouldn’t normally have picked off the shelf, which means we’ve discovered wonderful new foods as a result.

    Just how is that money saving? Well, the vegetables in those boxes last two weeks, on average. The bagged salads will easily last a week in the fridge. The same thing from the supermarket is generally wilted within a day or two. Vegetable bought from the supermarket rarely last the week. So, our food wastage is significantly reduced and we don’t throw out as much as we did in the past.

    Also, because we don’t have to buy new veggies every two to three days, it cuts down on the number of times we head to the supermarket in the first place, meaning I don’t spend the £10 – £15 on spontaneous buys that I used to probably two to three times a week.

  • Second – learn to cook what you have, store what you don’t eat, and eat through the kitchen for one week a month. What does that mean? It means prepare the food you have on hand, and learn to create recipes from what’s in your kitchen.This can be really hard at first, and rather hit and miss, especially with new ingredients, but practice makes perfect. When you need three carrots for dinner, chop all six and put the other three in the freezer. (Label it so you don’t defrost the grated swede thinking it’s mashed potato…. Trust me. It’s nowhere near the same thing in a shepherd’s pie!)

    One week a month – probably the last week – eat through the kitchen: open up your freezer and see what’s there and work on clearing it out. Look at the tins in the cupboard, the pasta and so on, and eat it all before it goes past it’s best, and you throw it out anyway.

It takes a little planning and a little extra effort, and sometimes imaginative cooking and gracious diners, but saving £60 odd pounds on that last week’s grocery bill is a huge saving at the end of the month.

What have you done around the house to help you save money?

Next time: How to make little pots of money to top you up through the roughest patches.

For great posts and ideas from the Natural Parents Network on money saving, look at the list on this page.

Sponsored Video: Drinkaware Video Worth Watching

Sponsored Post – but watch the video anyway!

I am lucky, in a sense, that I don’t yet have to deal with the ‘big issues’ when it comes to my girls. I don’t have to discuss some of the uncomfortable  things in life with them yet, and I don’t have to worry about peer pressure, and smoking, drugs or any of those other things. Of course, my time will come and I do think about the future and ‘worry’ about how I’ll handle it. I realised, sitting here watching this video, that we’ll probably go on as we’ve started: being led by our babies, being honest with them, and answering their questions.

We aren’t heavy drinkers these days – there’s an open bottle of  bubbly in the fridge from Sunday’s mother’s day lunch, where a few years ago, we’d have finished it before leaving the table! – but still, we’ll lead by example, I guess.

While this is a sponsored post, I think it is also a really good video fr om the Drinkaware campaign. I hope you find it useful too!

Video:

(If you can’t see this video, please click on the first video advert under ‘advertisers’ on the right side of the screen. It’s the same video.)

Trains And Trainsets – What To Choose?

I’m actually looking for a little bit of advice today.

When we were preparing for Squidgy’s birth, we were advised to ‘make sure that the new baby brings a present for big sister’. Apparently it’s meant to appease the jealousy monster. Personally, I think this new adjustment is going to depend on many more factors than merely what present is brought, but I wasn’t going to argue too much with the wisdom of those gone before, and we had wanted to buy Ameli a train set for ages, and thought this was the perfect opportunity.

So, we looked around and eventually found a train set on sale, and bought it. I wanted to be particularly careful that the set we bought would be Brio compatible as that seems to be the measure against which all wooden train sets are judged: Are they, or are they not, Brio compatible. And if they are, they should by default be compatible with each other.

So we bought a train set, and the morning after Squidgy was born, we popped her in a Moses Basket next to a train set in a box, and when Ameli came downstairs, we told her her sister had brought her a present.  She was ecstatic and her and daddy immediately set about building this set.

So now my question is this… or my questions, as the case may be: how much do we buy? How big do we make the set? Do we stick to one type, or do we mix and match among the compatibles? Have a look at these lovely Brio Train Sets from The Wooden Toyshop and you’ll see what I mean. There are so many options to choose from, and so much you can build on, but what would you recommend as the ‘basic’ necessities for a fantastic make-believe railway?

Bio Oil For Stretchmarks

I’ve used a variety of oils in my pregnancy to try to keep the skin on my belly from stretching too much, but the first oil I ever used was Bio Oil for stretch marks, a lovely red/burnt orange coloured oil that always makes me think of cinnamon.

During my first pregnancy I used Bio Oil every day, and only developed stretch marks in the final few weeks … but they went away again soon after Ameli was born. Annoyingly, as my bump grew, I only used oil on the bits I could see – the top of the bump – and not below my bump and the difference in skin tone post pregnancy between the regularly moisturised part and the unmoisturised parts are astounding. You’re welcome to try it for yourself, but I don’t recommend it.  During this pregnancy I’ve been very careful to nourish the skin above and below the belly button and right down into the groin area, especially as baby’s head has descended much earlier this time.

So what is Bio Oil and where do you find it?

Well, Bio Oil is quite chemical rich and the main down side of it is that the oil base is a mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum) and a few other unpronounceable words. However, if you use ‘regular’ beauty products, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. It also contains Calendula Oil, Lavender Oil, Rosemary Oil, Chamomile Oil, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil.

There’s been a fair amount of research around Bio Oil too, which you’d expect with a product that makes huge claims about effectiveness. The sensitivity research showed none of the 21 subjects with known skin sensitivities had any adverse reactions to Bio-Oil, and that it had a reaction value of 0.03 over the test period. Basically, Bio Oil performed better than deionized water.

Bio Oil was also tested on 38 women to see the effectiveness of the product and there were statistically significant results after only two weeks evident in 95% of the ladies. After 8 weeks, all subjects showed improvement in the reduction of scars.

You can find Bio Oil at your local chemist or online pharmacy and for a product that works, and lasts for ages, it’s really well priced at under £10, in my opinion.

 

 

ThermaCare HeatWrap Freebie

I have a fab little freebie for you this week – I’ve never done a freebie before, so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully you’ll like it!

ThermaCare UKThermaCare, a Pfizer brand, have offered 100 of you a free ThermaCare HeatWrap for Back Pain. I haven’t tried these, but I know that heat certainly helps ease sore muscles, and I’ve used their heatwraps on my wrists for RSI with great success.

As I say, I haven’t tried the HeatWrap, but apparently it warms provides 8 hours of heat while you wear it, plus 8 hours of relief after you take it off.  The heat is said to penetrate deeply, warming the muscle to relax, soothe and unlock the muscles. It is specifically designed to fit the back and hip area, and is thin enough to wear discreetly under clothing.

  • To claim your free HeatWrap, you have to do a few things:
  • You have to be a UK resident and over 18 – and not associated with the company
  • You have to ‘like’ their Facebook page, which is where you enter this code: C19A69EC5A13 and you’ll have to agree to email communication.
  • You’ll then have to answer a few health related questions to see if you’re eligible (by the way, if you say you’re pregnant you won’t qualify, so if you’re getting it for someone else, i.e. your husband, use his information!)

I think that’s it.

Leave a comment to let us know you got one, so we know when they’ve run out too, please!

I hope it helps with your back ache!

Setting Up A Toddler Room

Well, from the back of the room somewhere, I can just about hear a voice going, “So what’s the big deal? It’s not like you’ve never done this before!” And that would be rather the point. We have never done this before. We did try to set up a nursery. I painted Peter Pan pictures, and we put up a hanging nappy bag and a travel cot. Mr Husband even put shelves up in an enclave in the wall. But it was hard to spot the baby stuff among the bookshelves, printer, desk and general office stuff.
Read more: Setting Up A Toddler Room

Tuiss – Energy Saving Blinds

*This is a sponsored post*

Our last house in London was a lovely place. It was large, by London standards, and it was light and airy. Unfortunately in the winter, that was also it’s problem: it was very, very cold. Considering how cold it has been this winter, I was very glad we weren’t there as without double glazing, it must have been freezing.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know I’m pretty keen on environmentally friendly living, so when I was approached to write about energy saving blinds, I thought it a good opportunity to find out more, because now that I’m not returning to full time work, any chance of saving money works for me!
So, what are money saving blinds?

Well, Tuiss blinds come in three energy saving choices – 9%, 12% and 15%. According to their website, “The installation of these blinds can reduce the total household energy usage by up to 9%, 12% or 15%, a huge benefit when even the best performing windows lose five times as much heat as the same area of wall.”

Apparently, the plastic backing on the back of the blinds also reflects the heat of the sun back out before it has a chance to convert to heat, causing sun facing rooms to be cooler.

Heat loss through windows is greatest at night so pull these thermal blinds down, conserve energy and save money to boot.

The 15% blinds can save you up to £133 a year, 12% can save up to £110 a year, and the 9% blinds can save you up to £77 a year.

As for the blinds themselves, they are 100% polyester and has been especially designed and coated to be thermally efficient. The manufacture of the fabric isn’t particularly environmentally friendly but once the blinds are put to use they bring real eco benefit by reducing energy consumption – unfortunately I can’t find a comparison to say how long they have to be in use to cancel out the effect of their manufacturing.

Packaging for Tuiss blinds is as environmentally friendly as possible while still protecting your blinds. All of the cardboard used is recycled, the sticky tape uses a waterbased glue and the bubble wrap is biodegradable.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has used energy saving blinds. Have you found them to save you money? Do leave a comment and let me know!